2020 – 2022

A Two year Window

In the past days I have been on a few Zoom calls and some of what I see for the next season has been pulled on. I thought it might be of some value to put it down here, some of which in bits and pieces I have shared before. It needs of course to be weighed and if there is a projection on my part of expectations those will colour what I write. Prayer and revelation is not here to give us what we expect but what we need to enable participate in any forward God movement. Finally any sight has to be supplemented by sight from others.

In the first few days of January it became clear to us that 2020 was not going to be a year that could be planned out. It would be a disrupted year, the important part was that we could not plan as per normal but would have to respond as the disruptions occurred. For many this has been a painful year and I do not write in any way to diminish that experience; we weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. I acknowledge the diversity of experiences but also want to give a focus to push against the hope of those who are simply waiting for things to return to normal. God makes everything beautiful in its time and we have to discover what it is that God is beautifying.

It is fairly self-evident that there is a RESET taking place. The concept of a reboot is vital for many sectors, and the use now of the term ‘essential workers’ has been a redemptive and perceptive phrase. I suspect it will soon disappear from the active vocabulary as a measure of recovery comes. Crisis has value if we change… if not!!

There will be a bouncing back… it is OK to go with it to a measure, but the focus has to remain on the reset. However as the bouncing back is heralded (2021?) we should not get carried away. The reset has to go much deeper that a temporary change (everything online) and then back to a thank God here comes the normal!

For those who are seeking to find what God has in this season, as opposed to waiting for this season to end, it is not so much a reboot but a reset. The vision might need to be tweaked but the vision is the vision. A refocus might be required, but it is essentially about resetting. As in many sports there comes a point that the team needs to be reset in order to achieve the desired outcome. Perhaps the format of the team, or new plays need to be introduced. We are now in a period of reset and even when a measure of recovery comes, even if we might be able to go with it to some extent, the important element remains that the reset needs to be completed.

There is a 2 year window to push through this reset, ideally if it can be done in 18 months the better. In 2022 – I do not suspect at the beginning – I see global elements of crises appearing that will bust open the cracks. COVID-19 is serious but is also a sign of what is to come, and is signalling to us now that there is a period of time in which we can get ready for this.

The reset is to check alignments. There are alignments from the past season that will quickly prove to be energy sapping for the next. An important element to avoid in this season is filling all the space. There are also alignments that have become loose that need tightening up. However, we approach it the issue of ALIGNMENTS is key in this reset.

Also get ready to change direction. There will likely be for a number of people the sudden openness of new outlets that they have skirted around the edges of before. They will come with a fresh angle / approach and then open up.

The favour of God is going to be with those who are not giving themselves to protect the structures / institutions but invest in the people. This might well mean embracing what might seem a smaller influence, but invest small and deep and there will both be longer lasting results and also protection into the phase that opens in 2022.

At the same time God is at work not simply with ‘me / us’. We are not at the centre. We can flow with what God is doing, but the future is not being shaped for us as individuals. So I suggest that there are people now who are being loosened up from their former concepts that only got them thus far. The loosening will mean fresh sight to those people and also fresh space for new connections. There are many hubs being shaped at this time… a hidden few here and a hidden few there.

Coming clean

British Past

Back in the day so much prayer was focused on specifics such as the Berlin conference of the late 19th Century that carved up Africa for the Europeans. Alongside 13 European nations the USA was also involved. Alongside specifics a large amount of effort went into ‘rolling up the Roman road’, seeking to undo the effects of empire. We had some incredible encouraging signs and yet… But now so much seems to connect.

We should not expect that all movements that seek to address the issues are going to do it perfectly. If the body of Christ does not execute her task perfectly why do we have higher standards for the world!!

So much of history is covered over. I have found again and again that history stays hidden until uncovered through prayer. Once it is out the lid cannot be put on the box again. For the Brits among us here is a good article to check up on the British and part of our imperial history:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jun/16/boris-johnson-lying-history-britain-empire

I am definitely not patriotic. I find that to be in direct conflict with my commitment to Jesus. I cannot give any allegiance that conflicts with my allegiance to Christ. There are of course arguments as to what was achieved through empire, the sending of missionaries etc. It has even been suggested that the ‘fullness of times’ when Jesus came was the Roman Empire, one language, roads and so the gospel could spread! The context of those verses point in a radically different direction.

God maximises all possibilities. After all he even used a king in Israel! To find some good that came through something reveals nothing about the ‘thing’ in question.

The uncovering, the reaction is not going to go away. If I can be so bold as to suggest the prayer ensures that. And once we have prayed, we cannot then push it all back in cos what came out was not what we were expecting! Prayer does not unlock what we expect, it unlocks what we need.

We have hit mid-way through this decade a governmental crisis. We have leaders who are comfortable to lie. We have hit the sign of the COVID virus that is the wake up call… behind this comes the economic crisis that will have some back and forths but will come at a new level in 2022, when as yet some unforeseen combination of setbacks will hit.

Our response? Bunker down? Or use this time to allow for some personal readjustment to line up with God’s agenda. Early on in this ‘less than pretty time’ I cottoned on to the Ecclesiastes verses that God makes everything beautiful in its time. God is never inactive, never non-redemptive. There is always activity that he is involved in.

Loads of questions in this time, but I also see it as a major shift.

Exoduses and Pentecosts

My powers of interpretation

They come round each year and, although I did not grow up with a ‘church calendar’, I always value the focus they bring. I think there were also a few prophetic words surrounding Passover and Pentecost this year. I am pretty convinced, on the basis of Scripture, that whenever a new paradigm is coming that 1) there is prophetic revelation concerning it and 2) we normally MISS the outworking as our interpretation has an algorithm that was put in place based on PAST data. (Not a good way to assess future events… but no big deal as we are in biblical company when we do this… just important that we continue to be open.)

Of course if I make the statement that our interpretation is often awry and I am about to make an interpretation all readers will instantly pick up that I am the one exception. If you picked that up then continue to read…!!!!!

I have already hinted at the content of this post in previous posts but I will try and put it out here in clearer form. There are two Exoduses in Scripture. One that took the people out from the exploitation of Imperial rule to travel to a ‘Promised Land’. The 10 commandments (words) can best be understood as 10 instructions that totally undermine the way of life that they had been subjected to in Egypt, setting them up to be a free people. Off they trot… but not all goes well. A king come along, starts humble, next one with some major faults at least is ‘after God’s own heart’, next one Mr Wisdom who subjects the people to an Egyptian-style regime, kingdom divides, king for the north ‘comes up from Egypt’ establishing two golden calves! Freedom?

Not surprisingly the second Exodus is in Jerusalem (Lk. 9:31… the word ‘Exodus’ is used). There has to be a release from the bondage of Jerusalem to travel to the world that was promised (Rom. 4:13, written by a Jew). Here we are having celebrated the ‘passover’. But which Exodus has it been? My interpretation – and remember you are only reading this cos mine is correct – is that the passover in the midst of the lockdown in 2020 marked an Exodus from Jerusalem.

And Pentecost? Could there be something in the following sequence? Last day of 19th Century and we have the first occurrence of speaking in tongues in our ‘modern’ world (from there the movement goes to the West Coast and Azusa Street). 60 years later Dennis Bennet (of ‘Nine O’Clock in the Morning’ fame) on April 3, 1960 announced from the pulpit that he had been baptised in the Holy Spirit. That marked for many the beginnings of an era when the experience of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian community was felt outside of ‘pentecostal’ settings.

1900… 1960… + 60 years = 2020.

Probably coincidental, but I have a terrible habit of making what is coincidental significant. I like that – I deeply suspect God quite likes it too. If we make it significant probably he gets on board to do something with the coincidence.

Now given that interpretations are far from fallible, and often downright unhelpful, I submit the above.

But I leave with ‘passover’ will be significant and ‘pentecost’ will be unprecedented in 2020 (or words to that effect) all come together to say although the interpretations were very suspect, there was a distinct before and after. Now that is worth pursuing even if we do so with blinkers on.

2020… what a year

A before and an after

At the start of the year as we gave ourselves to get some idea of shape into it, we realised that we were unable to do so. Sensing strongly that it was a year of disruption… how understated that conviction will prove to be!

It is unlikely we will have many people out to see us this year. Last year we hosted people for around 120 days and nights… this year? And we are not convinced we will be travelling outside either with the various restrictions. This week we had some restrictions lifted. We can now be outside during the day at any hour (previously it was before 10.00am and after 8.00pm). Yesterday no COVID deaths were recorded in Spain so the hard line has produced fruit, but for so many who have no income, or reduced income for weeks / months, so much has changed. There will be a before and an after.

Looking forward, I still maintain that this year will not be as shocking as 2022. There are ripples and major shocks this year, and currently the street voice in the US is being responded to globally (Photo at the top is of Liverpool FC taking a knee while training. Liverpool has a call to be a city of reconciliation… Cities can follow where we go.)

I am deeply grieved by what is exploding in the US. And given that north America is the child of Europe there is no way that we can look and point a finger. What we see is an image of the fruit of the past 500 years of exploitation from Europe. What is for sure is that there are crises that come to all dominating systems, and in spite of not believing in wrath in the sense of ‘personal’ when applied to God the biblical usage of the term might well be applied into this phase of Western history.

The biggest challenge is seeking to understand what it means to be those who see a new ‘creation’. That is the gift of the Spirit (pertinent as we celebrated Pentecost Sunday) and the challenge from the Spirit – what do you see?

Easy to say, not easy to embrace, but we have to look to see what God is making beautiful in this season. I, for long, have considered that we prophesy without having much clue as to what it means. The Bible is full of it, and we should not expect to do much better. I have read some of the words about ‘Passover’ and ‘Pentecost’ for this year. My only comment is that words like that are not given to confirm us to stay on the merry-go-round. I wrote a few days ago about the Exodus from where (Passover) and I believe there is a before and after this Pentecost – but the after is going to be as shocking as the fulfilment of Peter’s prophecy on the day of Pentecost. In my great and awesome writings (as if!!) I wrote that before every shift forward there is a conversion of the church to the world. Such a conversion is preceded by traversing the ground of breaking with the good that has brought us thus far.

I have been ever so tempted to write some of the prophetic statements I have made in the USA since 2001, particularly concerning presidential terms (I spoke of a time-line appointed in 2001 that was tied to the Bush presidency and that a second term would indicate extended time to idea with a root issue; in 2005 I spoke of the outcome in 2008 and 12). I have held back and will continue to do so as the Lord made it clear that we are not ‘responsible’ for that land; there are others who have to take that stand and bring the land through to a different future. Same as we have to do here. Suffice to say through that what is taking place now is a pretty natural follow on from those words.

Finally, not aimed where it might seem to be aimed. When we hold up the cross, or a Bible in certain contexts (Spain and the Valley of the Fallen) we disempower and nullify the very reality that lies behind the symbol. That is deeply worrying. It is the lie of Imperial power – the altar to peace was established on Mars Hill in the days of the New Testament in Rome. Altar to peace established on the mountain of war.

The signs are there for those who wish to look, and this is not about left or right in politics. I still hold out that when we understand the good/bad line does not run between me and you but THROUGH you and me that we can pull something incredible out of this time.

A sign of the times

The end is definitely nigh

Writing about any crisis is difficult. I am not a medic, nor a scientist, nor a historian. I read a few reports, even the horrendous statistics in Spain (though thankfully improving) but have not talked first hand to someone in Spain who has had the virus. It is easy to write when it has not been in your home. I do know people who have had it and recovered, I also know (not know of, but know) people who have passed away from the virus. So at times writing seems a cheap and easy thing to do, and maybe it is.

I am glad I am not a politician. Open up, get the economy back; keep it shut down the risks are too high. It can be easy to say, typical money over people. But in this world life is a compromise. Choices are of what is the better / best choice looking forward. Or in more theological language ‘what is the most redemptive choice we can make.’ With faith in Jesus, and eyes and voice raised heavenward that is not easy, so for those who do not profess faith and probably do not really believe in any help from heaven this is a time of huge crisis that they are seeking to help steer us through.

‘It is a sign of the times’. Read Matthew 24, and that wonderful future predicting book, the last one. Read it and how can you not join the dots. The end is nigh, for sure, this time. Well it is not an unexpected response. Remember Y2k? Computers will crash, airplanes will fall. Stock up, make sure you have enough beans (did we ever get a thank you from Heinz?). I am glad for the prophets who later apologised. Yet it got many people. Add to the Y2k that the earth is 6000 years old (splutter, splutter!!!!!). 1000 years as a day and… oh yes there is that final 1000 years at the end. Quickly count the fingers. The year 2000 and a crisis.

In my youth the writer who explained all things was Hal Lindsey. His books were fascinating. But so many signs of the times, so much so that 1988 was going to be absolutely cataclysmic, and certainly he had no expectation of being around for the millennial celebrations as the year 2000 rolled in – the blessed rapture would have seen to that, the ultimate ticket out of here! [A cheap comment that is just that… but one I adhere to. The secret rapture was such a close guarded secret that not even a whisper got out to any New Testament writer.]

All of this signs of the times of course is not new. Martin Luther, Christopher Columbus… and the writers who lived when Napoleon was marching around Europe had a field day; not to mention the days of Hitler, the rise of communism… and so it goes on.

By all means refer to the Bible to get some guidelines as to how we should respond in a time of crisis, but I just don’t think it wise to try to get the pen out with a ‘look here it is, written here some x-thousand years ago’ and then draw a line to ‘and here is what was predicted’. A little reading of history and the odds are so stacked against anyone coming close to getting it right are so high.

But a sign? For sure. A sign that creation eventually calls a halt to the abuse that those who are responsible for it have messed up. Will we take note of the sign? (And I have for some time said there is something / some things combining that will have a far greater impact in 2022.

We have entered a new era, or maybe much better to suggest we are entering a new era as it is not happening in a moment, maybe over a decade there could be a clear before and after.

Scripture says that God makes all things beautiful in its time (Eccl. 3). Does not mean that all times are beautiful, but God is working to pull something through in all times. I do not see this time as some form of judgement in any sense that might suggest God has said, ‘I’ve had enough’. And it does not mean that this time is going to be easy.

For entrepreneurs it is such a new time. The journey for former entrepreneurs might be drawn on to find some pointers but the world is changing, and entrepreneurs now are not simply going to follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before, they are pioneering for a new world.

There are great surprises coming with regard to where we see the Spirit at work. A while ago I spoke of three phases of any outpouring: immediate, generational and then those ‘afar off’. I think it can also be put into the big picture of Asuza Street (and the immediate years before), the charismatic into the historic churches some 60 or so years later, and then another 60 years on and here we are. Surprises, and some of what has got us here (‘we have never eaten anything unclean’) will be challenged, and not challenged in a gentle manner.

My post then is hopefully gentle. We are not exempt from difficulty. Those who survive are not the ‘goodies’ and all other ‘baddies’. We are all contributing to the future in these days. There is an era passing and a new one here. I think it is fruitless to look back to find these days in the Bible, and as we look forward we can only see as if we are looking through obscure glass.

I begin here so

Presuppositions determine our destination

Presuppositions so determine outcomes. In my first focused writing that I will be going through with a few on Sunday evening I come reasonably clean. If we start at a given point we are probably going to end somewhere predictable. So I open with a personal bio that I suggest is more a personal bias.

If I think the world is essentially a burning building with everyone inside already in danger and eventually they will all burn in Gehenna and I run around pulling people out by the hair I will be deemed a hero. If a person refuses to come, I leave them to burn and pull the next one out I will have ethically been good. A presupposition. However if I view the work of the demonic to dehumanise and objectivise people, ‘befriend’ in order to evangelise (proselytise) and move on till I find someone who was elected from all eternity (or simply responsive in time) then my partnering in the act of pulling willing people by the hair will not be seen as a heroic act but something that even-in-part partnered with the demonic. And given who God is I will still have testimonies as to how he wonderfully broke in and people found salvation. The above I have put in extreme language… but my point is that where we start will shape behaviour, our assessment of what is deemed right, and for the sake of the writing that where we start will largely determine where we end up.

The challenge of belief is not that there are many valid faiths. There are many valid perspectives but not all perspectives are equal. In sharing my perspectives I am not seeking to convert readers to my viewpoint but ot provoke a journey toward their personal convictions. I do not expect to influence (e.g.) someone with a hard line Reformed position, or someone running round with a placard saying ‘Repent the end is nigh!’.

In the mid 90s I read an article that helped explain something. It was on the shift that had been taking place within evangelicalism. Previously to be evangelical was to sit with beliefs that were within a set of boundaries. There might be a few variations within the boundaries (e.g. eternal punishing – and this is normally written wrongly as punishment – in hell, or conditional immortality – again wrongly written as annihilation) but if one was inside the boundaries one was ‘in’ and outside one was a ‘heretic’. The author went on to describe the shift as being to emphasising two questions as being central. One question was with regard to what the door was to reconciliation to the Father, and the second what was the source of authority for one’s beliefs. The ‘correct’ answers to become a millionaire to prove one was still an evangelical were ‘the death on a cross by Jesus’ and ‘the Scriptures’. So far so good! But those who belief Jesus only died for the elect, and those who belief in Universalism both respond with the correct answers. And so it goes on and the diversity of views we see today expressed into current thorny issues such as same-sex marriage simply illustrate how the ground has shifted.

With a personal bias (starting point) we are shaped by our reading of Scripture, our experiences etc., but also by so much that is internal. I was talking to someone recently who was reflecting that a colleague of theirs was reacting to what they understood to be a ‘universalist’ perspective. They reacted with ‘well if everyone is saved why should I bother to follow Jesus.’ I am not a universalist, but if my reason for following Jesus is to avoid going somewhere really nasty it surely is time for me to push a whole lot deeper in my relationship to the Lord. Beliefs reveal so much!

Façades… no singing please!!

I had an email today asking me if the dream I had in 2010 has a relevance to the current time and asking if I would post it publicly. I was sure I had… but if so it must have been some time ago as doing a quick search I could not find it. Given that I think it is highly relevant I thought I would just go ahead and post (maybe again!). I have certainly repeated it often enough that many of you will have heard / read of it. If not here it is and I consider again it to be very timely.

The dream occurred as one of two in 2010. The other was of the balanced see-saw that would come about as the year 2020 arrived. The balanced see-saw does not indicate a reversal but something akin to a level playing field. When integrity and honesty will have the impact it should as the ‘field’ will not be stacked against us. It means getting a right result for the godly input… not the end of conflict but where things can be changed. Game on!!

So to the second of the two dreams.

I was in a town square and stood on one side of it. The opposite side consisted of a series of buildings, side by side. I understood that each building represented the institutions that had shaped the ‘public square’. They represented institutions such as politics, judiciary, business and trade, the church, etc. While I was looking at them – and my gaze never switched elsewhere – something occurred to all of them at the same time. The fronts (the façades) of each building opened up as if on hinges that swung them forward and then up. At this stage anyone who wished could look right inside them. The inner working (what Walter Wink might call the interiority of the powers?) were visible.

My immediate concern was that the buildings would be very unstable and they or at least the façades would fall forward and the people on that side of the square would be in real danger. I decided my responsibility was to shout the warning, to get away from the buildings and come to safety.

Within a few seconds, while I am preparing to shout the warning, I realise that – although defying physical laws – the buildings were not about to topple. They remained open but many people did not even seem to notice what was being exposed. As I then pondered what is happening and what kind of warning is needed, I heard someone to my left begin a Christian song. I do not recall what the song was but it was well-known and there were enough people in the public square that knew it and they one by one began to join in. In a short while the song was audible in the public square and when it reached a certain volume in the same way that the façades had opened so they now closed back down again. As I ponder what I have seen I heard an audible voice from behind me say:

It is the familiar that restores the status quo,
that brings things back to where they were.

Now I knew what the warning was. At a time when there was exposure and the possibility of a whole new level of integrity and honesty it would be the return to the familiar that would short-circuit the exposure, the cleansing (and in my language of now) the reset.

I cleared my throat, took a deep breath. Then opened my mouth and got the following words out: ‘It is the familiar’. As soon as I go those four words out a person from my right came and stood immediately in front of me, about 5 centimetres from my face, eye-balling me to intimidate me. I knew I had to get the warning out, moved to my left and the scene repeated. This happened three times in total, the fourth time I again moved left, filled my lungs ready, I got the words out ‘It is the familiar…’ and as I got to the end of that fourth word the person (spirit) did not confront me but stepped in front to finish the words with ‘that brings things back to normal.’

Close, but a total conversion of what the original was. The warning was gone, the exposure of reverting to the familiar as the enemy in this time was nullified, the problem was no longer the exposure (re-set) but the interruption to normal life.

I have told that dream in many places, and have often had the reaction that ‘but worship is good’, effectively rebuking me! I can defend it as ‘it was a dream’, but I also want to defend it more strongly than that.

One of the most comforting places for Christians to head to (particularly those in the charismatic tradition) is to go to the worship area. I do not deny that it can re-focus us on Jesus and away from ourselves, but it can also re-engage memory in the sense of recapturing a ‘feel-good’ sense. (Memory is one of the biggest hindrances to faith!) It was in that context (OT-wise) that God said he hates the activity the people were up to, activity that was prescribed for them in God’s law. In the same way the fast that God hated (Is. 58) was the fast from food and devotion to prayer to God (!) when at that time God was requiring a fast that was expressed in social justice. [An aside… contextually, the ‘all our righteousness is as filthy rags’ is not a comment that devalues genuine doing of good, but it is referring to ‘all our religious [and we can expand this to be, ‘activity that has been prescribed’] righteousness is as filthy rags’.]

I am glad in the dream it was the singing of a Christian song that was the issue. It hits hard at the issue of familiarity, the resorting to ‘not sure what to do let’s sing’. There is a time for all things, and therefore a time not for some things. The dream spoke strongly that this is a time to engage and not short circuit the process. [And maybe if there are songs to be sung they are the protest songs…, such as the resisteré song that we all join in with at 8.00pm each evening here. And there are plenty of those resistance Scriptures to pull on!]

I am also glad it was a Christian presence that cocked it all up. I strongly believe that the biggest influence on society is supposed to be those who follow Jesus, not through legislation (top-down) but through so shifting the spiritual atmosphere that there is an inhibiting of certain expressions and a fostering of all that is good. [That deserves a whole blog or ten!]

Of course there will be a strong pull to ‘let’s get back to normal’ form those who benefit from normal. So we will see a rise of unemployment and those on the margins will suffer in this Covid-19 season, but at the same time the big monsters that live off the lives of people will prosper beyond belief. They do not want any changes, let all things continue as ‘normal’.

I am glad to read at least of those talking of a ‘new normal’ provided it is not a refreshed view of what we have currently. A new normal has to align more with the kingdom of God (a New Jerusalem that comes down from heaven) than with a Babylon (that rises up from the earth, seeking to make a name for ourselves).

The next two years are critical. Anything that just brings comfort through familiarity has to be put aside. We do not want things closed back down again.

Much more can be said… but at least I now have the dream up, though maybe not for the first time!

A Catholic Theologian responds to the virus

Tomás Halík is a Jesuit priest, philosopher and theologian based in Prague. He has written a reflective response to the virus here:

https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2020/04/03/christianity-time-sickness

It is a lengthy article but worth the read. I would have liked to put it up in full here but here are a few extracts:

[The church] has a diagnostic role to play (identifying the “signs of the times”), a preventive role (creating an “immune system” in a society in which the malignant viruses of fear, hatred, populism and nationalism are rife) and a convalescent role (overcoming the traumas of the past through forgiveness.

… and then soon things would all return to the way they were. But as time passes, the reality has become clearer: They will not. And it would not turn out well if we tried to make it so. After this global experience, the world will not be the same as it was before, and it probably should not be.

I am not just referring to the coronavirus pandemic, but to the state of our civilization, as revealed in this global phenomenon. In biblical terms, this all-pervasive sickness is a sign of the times.

I cannot help but wonder whether the time of empty and closed churches is not some kind of cautionary vision of what might happen in the fairly near future. This is what it could look like in a few years in a large part of our world. We have had plenty of warning from developments in many countries, where more and more churches, monasteries and priestly seminaries have been emptying and closing. Why have we been ascribing this development for so long to outside influences (the “secularist tsunami”), instead of realizing that another chapter in the history of Christianity is coming to a close, and it is time to prepare for a new one?

Maybe we should accept the present abstinence from religious services and the operation of the church as kairos, as an opportunity to stop and engage in thorough reflection before God and with God.

It looks as if many of our churches will be empty at Easter this year. We will read the Gospel passages about the empty tomb somewhere else. If the emptiness of the churches is reminiscent of the empty tomb, let us not ignore the voice from above: “He is not here. He has risen. He has gone ahead of you to Galilee.”

The lockdown preceding…

‘Saturday’ is a little imposed on the biblical narrative, as is Sunday (resurrection) morning with the day beginning and ending differently than in our Western setups, yet I hope the language is understood. There is considerable debate as to what happened between death and resurrection – did he visit ‘hell’ to preach and to whom? What we do know is that burial was an important part of the Gospel proclamation.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3,4).

The inbetween time waiting for God to act marks this time. On the third day raised:

who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom. 1:4).

The resurrection inaugurated a whole new beginning, both setting the whole of creation back on track, and on a new track to the future. Nothing can be compared to that. The birth of a whole new world… and yet that new world still awaits the future, but along the way there are birth pangs that point to her arrival, and there is always a call for the people who have received the firstfruits of that era to both be signposts to that future and guides along the way.

It would be shallow to compare the lockdown that many are experiencing globally to the ‘inbetween day’ of Easter, so I will not go there. I simply want to suggest that the ultimate pattern of Easter is the source of our hope.

  • There is a before and an after. The after is not a return to what was before. Continuity is there – the same Jesus who went into the grave, is the Jesus who came out. But by the resurrection he becomes a ‘life-giving Spirit’.
  • Resurrection is an act of God, not an act of human will. To restore back something back to where it was might be possible through human will, but to lift it to a new level of life is beyond our ability. In Hong Kong there is some graffiti that reads: “There can be no return to normal because normal was the problem in the first place.” (‘Normal’ and whether it is a problem depends so much on where one stands in the pecking order of benefits!)
  • Henry Kissinger (former US secretary of state under Richard Nixon) has said that rulers must prepare now to transition to a post-coronavirus world order. We might not be rulers (as if!!) but as believers we are to herald a new day, indeed Paul suggests that our sight has to be of a ‘whole new creation’ and therefore our whole sight is different.

We will ride the storm of the coronavirus. There will be inevitable flare ups in the autumn / Fall season, but generally the globe will survive and the virus can be spoken of as a past event, but… this shutdown is not limited to a Saturday nor to the early/mid months of 2020. And let me change the language of ‘shutdown’ for a mo – this time of preparation, of ‘re-set’. We have just over 2 years of ‘re-set’. For I consider a far greater crisis will be here in 2022, not a virus but a combination of events / circumstances that together will present our world with a crisis of significant proportions.

There are three words interlocked in Scripture:

  • Glory
  • Suffering and the middle word
  • Time

The path (time) to glory is pain! How we respond en route is the challenge. The resurrection is the demonstration that Jesus was indeed faithful to the path and vision.

We are embarking on a pathway, one we have not walked on before, or not at this level of intensity and focus. The next two years for some will be ‘returned to normal’ and with a big ‘thank God’… for others it will be ‘cannot settle back to what has been called normal’, waiting and listening.

The reset is both a ‘reboot’ for the systems that have become totally locked up, a reset that at times our computers and devices need when the operating system cannot handle what has been loaded on to them… and a reset, being set again in the position where the Lord has for us, set with values from heaven.

I hear the sound of the silence contained in that phrase ‘and was buried’.

Optimistic disruption

At the beginning of the year we either intensely or with some measure of focus pray regarding the coming year. This year we had paper on the floor, separate and together. Certain aspects gave us a personal context, particularly the beginning of our 12th year in Spain and a shift to Madrid as our main base. One aspect became very clear very quickly. This would be a very different year and one that would not be easy to plan. It would be a year of disruption.

Little did we know! A year of disruption – somewhat of an understatement! We have just finished 3 weeks of total isolation, other than 5 visits to the supermarket (and only 1 person per trip allowed, and to the nearest supermarket or a possible fine; and the glorious freedom of taking the rubbish to the communal bin – an all-of 40 metre round trip). And the lockdown is not going to end in the next few weeks, so straight away we will have been away from our Madrid apartment for at least a quarter of the year, and it could well prove to be much more than that. When we finally look back on 2020 I am sure it will be seen as the year of disruption.

What comes out of this year is so unknown, and for those who have to take huge decisions daily in response to the immediate knowing that such responses can set things in motion for years to come, grace and wisdom to them. [An aside here in Spain the press either covers favourably or with hostile reaction the response and how it differs from 2008. Then the bail outs were for the banks, the big institutions. This time round it is people-first. It has even been described (hostilely) as a damaging ideology of protecting the most vulnerable! Needless to say we are delighted.] Economy or people first… as I have often commented Jesus nailed that one very early on and it was part of the cross narrative. If it is not part of the narrative there is no resurrection, and at this time we need a resurrection not a resuscitation, nor a restoration.

Years ago I read an excellent book on Pentecost and it described it as an ‘irruption’ of God. This disruption – and in no way do I want to minimise it – can become a holy irruption. I think the path to the irruption is the important part. ‘Stay in Jerusalem until…’ was an essential part of the instructions to the 120. They were holed up, locked in, but found a purpose in the lockdown. Pentecost was a once off, but there are times in history that mark a season where there is a very significant echo from the sound of a previous era. And Pentecost – like creation for the language of Acts 2 echoes that of Genesis 1 – was a sound, a sound from heaven, that was responded to that then caused a subsequent attraction to that sound.

Personal and also corporate journeys are important… until. Personal – for many of us the ‘other side’ cannot be business as usual. It will be different. Corporate – hope those who tune in to the streaming of their favourite church service are enjoying it… but if we are parking things on the internet until ‘normal service is restored’ I don’t think we will find this disruption becoming an irruption of heaven. What can change surely needs to be one of the questions now being explored. How much can it change… There are opportunities for those who think outside the box during and post this disruption. At the economic realm if one believes in the invisible hand of the market one of the big shifts (and I should probably spell that without an ‘f’ in the word) is already the world of internet pornography. Difficult to oppose that development if one bows at the feet of the market… so surely we can do much better than that.

There is a corporate journey(s) at the global level. The way things are going in some places (and have been going for some time) is the increasing shutting down of the voice of the opposition, or the voice from perspectives that hold to account. The language of ‘fake media’ has paved the way for dictatorships that mark the end of an era; and in the case of Hungary already the possibility of imprisonment is aimed at the press. The shutting of borders and the ‘xxx first’ calls far from shutting down globalism is playing right into it. Where is the aid coming from for Europe? Where are the masks being flown in from for the USA? So maybe I should talk of three paths, a continual globalisation, a nationalistic ‘me-first’, and maybe one that is a fresh expression of serving humanity. Time will tell but if for now I write of two paths that are going to open up I am reminded of a certain Jewish figure who spoke of two paths in the context of political, economic and global turmoil. Two paths globally. I suspect two paths for the body of Christ, and again the same issues. Shaped institutionally, economically and survival-first. Or shaped by the release of those who have encountered the Spirit whose womb is where the new world springs from. [An aside, another aspect of the feminine of God is the Incarnation. It is no crude picture of the divine having intercourse with the young girl, Mary, but that both the womb of the young woman and the womb of the divine is where the new life begins – much seed thought there. This is also why I do not look to Mary to be the figure of the feminine of God but to the Spirit. Also with the three paths above on the global scene, two of them are driven from a patriarchial base – for sure we have seen misogyny as one of the core principalities being confronted in this extended season. Males cannot provide the ‘benign’ context… humanity is required for that to take place.]

For this disruption to become an irruption for the church, we have to shift from the concept that ‘the church is the body of Christ’ to ‘the body of Christ is the church’. That paradigm shift is almost as big as shifting from creating Jesus in the image of the God we want, to seeing God in the image of Jesus and discovering the God who can truly set us free. What if we applied the (paraphrased) words of Jesus – you will only know who this God is you talk about if you know me… what if we applied that also along these lines – you will only know what the church is when the body of Christ is manifest. A holy irruption is possible, but we have to move beyond parking things until!

So the beginning of the year indicated the difficulty in predicting and planning what would come, but here we are in the ‘waiting until’ phase. The forced disruption can be the doorway to the holy irruption.

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